The National Archives Celebrates Thanksgiving
Press Release · Saturday, October 3, 1789
"Thanksgiving, like Ambassadors,
Cabinet officers and others
Smeared with political ointment,
Depends for its existence on
Washington, DC…On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as an official holiday of "sincere and humble thanks." The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to "set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of "Thanksgiving."
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a national debate, was reversed in 1941 when Congress passed and President Roosevelt approved a joint house resolution establishing, by law, the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
The three-page engrossed Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln is part of Record Group 11, General Records of the United States Government; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-2000, in the custody of the National Archives. The October Proclamation (Presidential Proclamation 2373) signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 31, 1939, is also part of Record Group 11 and the Presidential Proclamation series. The House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 41) is part of Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives held by the Center for Legislative Archives.
Images of related photos and documents are available on the National Archives web site.
President Richard Nixon and turkey
Turkey presentation for Thanksgiving , 11/18/1969,
Nixon Presidential Materials Staff (NLNS), National Archives at College Park.
National Archives Identifier: 194663
President Harry Truman and turkey
Photograph of President Truman receiving a Thanksgiving turkey from members of the Poultry and Egg National Board and other representatives of the turkey industry, outside the White House. 11/16/1949,
Harry S. Truman Library (NLHST)
National Archives Identifier: 200138
George Washington's October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 10/03/1789,
Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives. National Archives Identifier: 299956
The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, 12/26/41, 77th Congress, Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives held by the Center for Legislative Archives.
President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106). , 10/03/1863
Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives.
National Archives Identifier: 299960
See also: "The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings" - a special online exhibit about President Roosevelt's commemoration of this important day: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/thanksg.html
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For press information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.
This page was last reviewed on August 15, 2016.
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